ithin days of reading New York Times reporter Joseph Lelyveld’s account of an inquest into the death of a detained South African doctor and trade union organizer (“Inquest on Death of South African Draws to Close,” November 1, 1982) I began shifting through the New York archives of the International Defense and Aid Fund for Southern Africa (IDAF/USA) to find earlier reports from unions, international news agencies, and “underground” groups on Neil Aggett’s confinement, torture, and murder. I shared the resulting typed, 15-page document with artist Sue Coe, who shared it with the publishers of RAW Books. Soon I was expanding my research for our joint project.
How to Commit Suicide in South Africa was published in 1983. In 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in South Africa after 27 years. Many anti-apartheid organizations closed their doors, including IDAF/USA. But the records of these vital groups, their detailed accounts of organized resistance to apartheid and the South African government’s response, were archived and remain accessible. Researchers may begin their investigation into this vast social movement with www.nelsonmandela.org. In the Memory for Justice portion of the site, a section devoted to Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives links readers to collections around the world, and many are searchable online.